The GIFT (Growing in Faith Together) suite of programmes was originally designed and compiled by Maura Hyland and delivered in parishes in the Diocese of Down & Connor. It was later reviewed and adapted by the Diocesan Youth Commission and again used in various parishes and schools in the Diocese. With the launch of Living Youth, there came a commitment to establishing opportunities for young people to engage with, share, and celebrate their faith throughout their school lives and beyond so the search began for a programme that would connect with children at the time of their confirmation and re-engage them in the first year of their post primary education, offering further opportunities in year 9, 10, 11 and beyond (Gift 1, 2, 3 & 4).

On the GIFT programme, young people take part in fun activities, pray together, discuss various topics such as friendship, gifts and relationships and will have a positive experience of belonging to the Catholic Church and their own parish. The programme is facilitated by core leaders, parents and adult volunteers who have have been trained in how to share our faith in a fun and age appropriate way. Young people who have completed the programme return as youth leaders/mentors and many progress to the Pope John Paul II Award.

In GIFT 1, the focus is remembering our confirmation and developing unique God given gifts and talents. GIFT 2 looks more at caring for ourselves and learning new skills in life. Gift 3 begins to look more deeply at how we can share our faith, through a guided retreat, within our local Church, in our parish and in local nursing homes. Finally, GIFT 4 looks towards the Universal Church when we spend time exploring our Catholic heritage that comes to fruition with a pilgrimage to an international pilgrimage site such as Rome.

Many people, from throughout Down & Connor, attended the GIFT training last year. Once trained and experienced in the programme, many people introduced it into their parish over the course of the year. It has proved to be highly successful as well as enjoyable as the programme is continuing to run throughout the Diocese this year, with even more parishes getting involved. The GIFT 2 programme will be released very soon so watch this space. If you are interested in taking part in GIFT please get in touch with Living Youth or your parish so you can get involved.

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